Blog Entry

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Posted on: November 2, 2010 2:46 am
Edited on: November 2, 2010 9:41 am
Grizzlies point guard granted 5-year, $45-million extension for mediocrity, continued inconsistency.Posted by Matt Moore

In the long history of terrible moves by the Memphis Grizzlies, mark my words, this one will reign supreme.

Worse than drafting Hasheem Thabeet.

Worse than trading Pau Gasol for Marc Gasol, Kwame Brown, and cash.

Worse than re-signing Rudy Gay for $80 million.

This, this right here, is not just the worst move in the history of the Grizzlies, but it is the shining golden cap on the mountain of terrible moves made by NBA owners over the past 2 years. It is this, exact move, that nullifies any argument the owners can possibly make that they spend their money responsibly inside the current CBA. It is this contract that overshadows Joe Johnson's contract, Amir Johnson's contract, Darko Milicic's contract as the single worst contract handed out in 2010.

ESPN's Chris Broussard and the Memphis Commercial-Appeal reports that the Memphis Grizzlies have agreed to a 5-year, $40-million-plus extension for Mike Conley.

There is really nothing more to say. But here's something anyway.

Mike Conley is the worst starting point guard in the NBA. That's including Derek Fisher, who is at this point both a defensive signpost and a superior point guard. People often wonder why it is I consider this to be so. The reasons are numerous. It's not that Mike Conley is not a good basketball player. He is. He's a career 44% shooter, and 38% from the arc, which isn't bad at all. As a spot-up back-up combo guard, he wouldn't be bad at all. Mike Conley is not a bad NBA player. But there are three things this contract supposes that he is not. He is not a starting caliber point guard. He is not worth $45 million dollars over 5 years. And he is not worth the longterm damage this contract does to the Memphis Grizzlies franchise.

Conley's biggest problems involve things which are extremely hard to identify in the box score. His turnover margin is acceptable, if not stellar. He was 24th in the league last year in assist rate among point guards who played 25 minutes or more. That's not good, at all, but it's not horrific. But if you watched as many Grizzlies games as I have, you'd know certain things. Like, for instance, his dribble probe ability.

Every point guard in the National Basketball Association is able to probe the defense. It involves stepping inside the arc, towards defenders, and maintaining your dribble to see how the defense reacts to penetration. It allows the point guard to evaluate spacing and set up the correct set of decisions. Mike Conley cannot. He will routinely turn his back to a post maneuver, just to avoid losing the ball. This is because he has tremendous difficulty in splitting defenders. This is just one example. He struggles in the pick and roll according to Synergy Sports, averaging just a .79 PPP in the pick and roll and shooting 44% which is a great Field Goal %, but not in pick and roll. Defensively? It's even worse.

Conley surrenders a .96 PPP in Isolation, giving up free throws over 16% of the time. In pick and roll, a .82. It's not horrific. It's just miserably average-to-subpar. This at the most important position on the floor. Bear in mind that Conley plays in a high-octane, weapon-loaded offense that allows him to get out in transition and get easy buckets. Yet he turned the ball over in transition 16.7% of the time.

Advanced stats don't look much better. Conley has never posted a +15 PER, the benchmark of an average player in the league. Conley is only 23, but it would require a monumental improvement in several categories for him to reach the point of actually deserving this kind of contract.

As a comparison? Rajon Rondo makes only $10 million more for his extension than Mike Conley. Rajon Rondo. The guy that just dropped 24 assists in one game for a title contender. That guy makes $2 million more per year, that's it.

But the real problem with this contract?

The damage it does to the future.

Alongside Conley, the Grizzlies needed to extend Marc Gasol, the only real asset they acquired in the Pau Gasol trade. Marc Gasol is arguably the most important player on the team. He is an excellent passer out of both the high and low post. He has a reliable mid-range jumper, is tremendous on the offensive glass, and works his face off on the defensive end. He shows hard and recovers on the pick and roll, maintains low-post position and is active, and continually makes hustle plays. This in a league that is painfully thin on centers. And the Grizzlies have just opened the door for Gasol to walk away in restricted free agency. Zach Randolph has to be re-signed after his contract expires this year, and given the affection the Grizzlies organization has shown Randolph, there's no sign they won't overpay for Z-Bo as well. Which would mean making room for Marc Gasol would be incredibly difficult.

Then next season, you have O.J. Mayo in a similar boat. Looking for an extension. But after the owners' hardline CBA renegotiations get through, how much cap space will they have left? Plus they'll have Hasheem Thabeet coming up soon and a need to justify their drafting of him by waiting for him to develop over the next decade.

So what you're looking at with this extension is the rare combination of a move that's bad in and of itself, and mortgages your ability to win later by most likely expending two of your three best players. You now have $120 million committed to Rudy Gay and Mike Conley over the next six years. That's bad enough, but you'll most likely be losing better players in order to form around that core. It damages you in the short term. This is a player who you have tried to improve upon with Jamal Tinsley, moving O.J. Mayo to point, Greivis Vasquez, Allen Iverson, and I'm pretty sure a clone of John Stockton. But this is the player you have chosen to give $40 million-plus to.

The owners have held the high ground in negotiations regarding the CBA. Even with moves like Darko, Johnson, and the stellar history of Isiah Thomas, the ownership has been able to justify the moves they've made. But this is more damaging than others. This is a clearly B-Level player getting close to $9 million a year.

The Commercial-Appeal reports the decision was largely made upon Conley's strong start to this season. Three games. In a contract year. Featuring a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. This, apparently, is what sets the market in Memphis.

When Ken Berger reported last month that the NBA was considering contraction as a possible solution to its economic woes, I spoke out passionately against it. Small-market fans shouldn't be punished and the overall health of the league nationwide shouldn't be harmed in an attempt by larger market teams to make life easier on them. But after this deal, the question must be raised. Would the Grizzlies be better off if they were simply erased from existence? Is a fan base better off existing in a constant and continual cycle of disappointment and failure, or simply not existing at all?

Mike Conley made $45 million without a single impressive season. And the bizarre, cruel, laughable reign of Michael Heisley continues.


Since: Aug 16, 2009
Posted on: November 2, 2010 11:21 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

The reason the Grizz aren't any good is because of their awful bench.

Since: Aug 16, 2009
Posted on: November 2, 2010 11:20 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Statistically, they actually have the best starting 5 in all of basketball. Well at least, last year they did, and they retained the same five guys. Their starting 5 had the highest +/- of any other starting 5 in the league while they were all out on the floor.

Since: Feb 13, 2010
Posted on: November 2, 2010 10:26 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

I love everyone who keeps talking about Memphis having one of the "best starting rotation in basketball." They are not even top fifteen because they don't have even a top 25 NBA player.  Without that guy there is zero chance of winning an NBA title and now the "Mighty" Griz are stuck sqarely in NBA Hell.  They will be just good enough to be in the shallow end of the lottery pool or the 7-8 seed in the playoffs for the forseeable future without a real shot at a top pick to cahnge their fortunes.  God knows no real free agent is going there so the only chance they have is that Mayo develops into that guy but from what I have seen that is not likely.  The one poster is right, NBA contraction should begin in Memphis, sweep through Sacramento and Charlotte and you can wrap the T-Wolves in with these garbage cities that do not deserve to have an franchise.  Its just too bad the Clippers are in a major market otherwise they would go too.

Since: Nov 2, 2010
Posted on: November 2, 2010 8:12 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

Holy h*ll you've set a new standard for the worthlessness of sports journalists.  How do sports journalists get these jobs anyways, get together with a bunch of their buddies and see who can write the most words without expressing a single good idea?
It's like you saw a story about the Grizzlies on the sportswire, remembered they're the team in Memphis and then just vomited out all the horrible analysis that has been made about them over the past four years.  Newsflash, you're not the first hack columnist to try and build their own credibility by making fun a franchise in a small market that has lost a lot of games over the past three seasons.  In fact, in trying to jump on this bandwagon, you're more like the guy who celebrated the closing of his dream house in September 2008.  How's that dream of being a real estate mogul working out for ya?  Probably will feel worse than when the Grizzlies make a push for the playoffs with one of the youngest rosters in the NBA, but it's pretty similar, right?
Hey, maybe CBSSports should have a link at the top of their NBA page that says, "Heat Index" so they can annoy the h*ll out of every reasonable sports fan for the next decade.  I know ESPN already did that, but apparently CBSSports really loves stealing other journalists sh*tty ideas.

Since: Oct 6, 2009
Posted on: November 2, 2010 6:58 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

he is not worth more then rondo period. he did nothing to deserve that contract he is good , but not great....and rudy gay didnt deserve 80 million either he gets paid as the top 5 player in the league and he is not even in the top 10 come on!!! they are like the okland raiders not including this years o-town

Since: Nov 2, 2010
Posted on: November 2, 2010 6:52 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

  • i have to  say they need to watch the game instead of talking so bad of players

Since: Aug 16, 2009
Posted on: November 2, 2010 5:32 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

It's these national writers, who only think that putting up a large amount of points and assists matters, that bring down the sport of basketball.
Andre Miller doesn't score a whole lot, nor does he get a lot of assists, but he's one of the best point guards in the NBA because of all of the little things he does.

These fantasy guys who just look at the numbers and don't watch the games will never be able to appreciate the little things.

Since: Aug 16, 2009
Posted on: November 2, 2010 5:29 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

It's a shame that this writer will never revisit this thread after Conley continues to lead the best starting rotation in the NBA. He'll pretend like this article never happened.

Since: Nov 2, 2010
Posted on: November 2, 2010 2:18 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

I've always appreciated Conley. He has always been unassertive and deferred to guys like Gay and Mayo with their great offensive skills. However now it's different. He knows that these other guys aren't creators. He is the most reliable one when the clock is running down. All the other Griz starters like to put the ball on the floor to get their shot. That's why the assist numbers aren't there. The Griz should have had a savvy point guard for the last few years to lead the youngsters. Now, finally they do.

I hope Thabeet blossoms. With his agility, he would be a nice complement to the stolid front court we have. This is also where Arthur fits in. His athleticism will definitely help us against the young teams we always struggle with.

I agree with you about P.Gasol. He wasn't the guy for the Grizzlies. His salary is now being paid to Randolph and I'm pleased that we have a guy who's a leader and not a wool- gatherer. Unloading Pau's salary, though it turned out to be a gift to the Lakers was good for the Griz.

Go Grizzlies!

Since: Sep 5, 2010
Posted on: November 2, 2010 2:18 pm

Grizzlies commit franchise suicide, extend Conley

The worst contract I can see is whatever they pay this jack-wagon to write such ignorant garbage. The point guard is the slowest developing and hardest position to make the adjustment from college to pro. Conley is developing and improving right on pace and maybe even ahead of pace to becoming a great player. He has great athletic genes and a great work ethic. 

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